Holiday Guide: Charitable ideas for the holidays

Christine Farolan, Copy Chief

‘Tis the season of giving, and there is no shortage of worthy causes. Here are some on- and off-campus suggestions to get you started, plus some opportunities that are a little different than your average food drive.


Most holiday-themed philanthropies such as GlobeMed’s Ugly Sweater Sale or Zeta Beta Tau and Alpha Phi’s Candygrams occur before Thanksgiving break, so look out for them next year. If you stay in Evanston over Thanksgiving, a good opportunity is Questgiving. The Quest Scholars Network provides food for a Thanksgiving dinner open to all students staying on-campus over break. You can volunteer to help cook the giant meal for your peers beforehand and then take part in the feast yourself.

An ongoing charity is Sheil Catholic Center’s giving tree. A tree set up in Sheil’s lobby has paper ornaments with gifts requested by children in need written on them. You can take an ornament and return it with the unwrapped gift for the child by Dec. 7. Sheil works with other churches to distribute the presents.

Beyond NU

Like Sheil’s giving tree except on a national scale, partners with schools, churches and other community organizations that serve underprivileged children. Catalogs of gifts are distributed to these organizations. Kids pick the gift they want and create a profile for themselves with a little bit about them and a drawing of theirs. You can choose a child to sponsor by buying his or her present.

A unique and equally impactful charity is Your Holiday Mom, a website that collects letters written to LGBT youth who may not have an accepting family. The letters are meant to give recipients “a virtual home for the holidays” from a stranger acting as a supportive mom, dad, sibling or friend. They are still accepting letters for this holiday season, and you can write one to send some love.

If you have a group, club or church you want to work with, Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree project  provides children who have an incarcerated parent with a present they might not otherwise receive during the holiday season. Prison Fellowship itself assists the families of incarcerated individuals and promotes a safer prison environment through education for prisoners and correctional professionals. You can register a group for the Angel Tree project to give gifts to children in your area or help with year-round services like mentoring and a summer camp.

All Year Round

If the spirit of giving has you searching for opportunities outside of the holiday season, here are two options that differ from the typical food drives and soup kitchen volunteering and require no money at all. Stanford’s [email protected], University of California, Berkeley’s BOINC and IBM’s World Community Grid are programs that allow people to contribute to scientific research, such as global warming, new cures for diseases or clean energy. After downloading a program’s software, your unused computer power will be used to help fuel this research. If you have an interest in social justice, Amnesty International highlights several instances of human rights violations in its annual Write For Rights Cases.  You can choose a case that moves you and write an individual letter or join or host a local writing event. Letters written to people, communities and government officials in the past have resulted in release from prison, reparations, protection and support.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @crfarolan